In late May, the Orange County [NY] Chamber of Commerce held a seminar, “Show Me the Money,” hosted by Chamber member Lois P. Tannenbaum, Psy.D, Owner and President of L.I.F.E. Source Learning, Inc. In presenting the case for hiring people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD), Dr. Tannenbaum was joined by John Maltby and Mitchell Levitz, both of the Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD).
Maltby, a former businessman himself, described how businesses can help themselves, their communities, and people with I/DD by hiring individuals for purposeful employment that is interesting to these workers and productive for the businesses. Studies show that such workers display superior attendance and performance on jobs suited to their abilities.
Maltby outlined the changes in American public policy approaches to serving the I/DD community. He outlined the current progression of moving from having people in group homes that were “in the community, but not of the community” to being treated more as clients empowered by having the money expended on their behalf accompany them as individuals to the organizations serving them, making the “providers“ become “vendors.” Group homes care for these individuals at a cost between $115,000 and $500,000 each, so there is a substantial opportunity to find suitable, lower-cost alternatives, especially those that integrate these individuals into the mainstream of work and community life. For example, New York State’s budget for approximately 100,000 people with disabilities was $9 billion in 2009-10.
Mitchell Levitz, who has a developmental disability and is a well known self-advocate, spoke about his own path to a productive and satisfying life. While in high school, he worked for his family’s catering business, then took an internship with New York Assemblyman George Pataki (who subsequently became Governor Pataki), followed by a job as an aide in a bank. He moved to Cincinnati to work at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and assist in their program to train and hire youths with I/DD. Currently, Mitchell is the Self-Advocacy Coordinator at WIHD. Along the way, he has co-authored several books, appeared on television and radio, and he serves on many councils, boards, task forces and conference planning groups locally, statewide and nationally. He emphasized that individuals with I/DD are above-average employees who learn and display punctuality, reliability, flexibility, and congeniality when matched to suitable jobs, while concurrently becoming self-reliant earners and savers.
Walgreen’s, Target, and Home Depot have all found their employees with I/DD to demonstrate superior performance and have found that their customers look favorably on companies that make such hires.
Dr. Tannenbaum and Mr. Maltby gave detailed information about the significant financial employer incentives and streamlined procedures now in place to encourage hiring the growing number of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. For more information, they can be contacted at DrLois@lifesourcelearning.com and firstname.lastname@example.org .